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Friday, February 04, 2022

Neil Young’s Harvest at Age 50

Harvest by Neil Young - Released on February 1, 1972

Please note that an official 50th anniversary release of Harvest is scheduled for later this year.

Neil Young’s Harvest at Age 50

By Harvey Kubernik Copyright 2022

This month, February 2022, Neil Young will celebrate Harvest with a 50th anniversary edition.  Details will be announced by his record label Reprise later this year.  

   Over the decades I’ve interviewed essential musicians, arrangers, engineers, producers and singers who initiated the commercial environment for Young’s Harvest:  Denny Bruce, Jack Nitzsche, Richie Furay, Don Randi, Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, and Elliot Mazer. Their voices are housed in my 2015 book Neil Young: Heart of Gold.  [see details below]

     I witnessed Buffalo Springfield on stage during December 1966 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and The Hollywood Bowl in April 1967. I saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse debut in June of 1969 at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in West Hollywood, and Young’s 1971 solo concert in Los Angeles.

    In 1965, Denny Bruce was the drummer for Frank Zappa’s earliest incarnation of the Mothers of Invention and was a Sunset Strip regular.  Bruce eventually had a distinguished career managing and producing such acts as Magic Sam, Leo Kottke, John Hiatt, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Fahey, Charles Bukowski, Michael Bloomfield and T-Bone Burnett. Bruce was an A&R man for Vanguard and Blue Thumb Records, co-owned Takoma Records, and is currently co-owner/CEO Benchmark Recordings. 

   “In 1965 I was staying at Jack Nitzsche’s house in the Hollywood Hills after he split with his wife, Gracia,” remembered Denny in a 2015 interview we conducted.

    “I first met Neil in 1966 when he was living in an apartment at the Commodore Gardens in Hollywood. I saw Buffalo Springfield play all the local clubs. The Whisky, Gazzarri’s, and smaller places. After performing Neil would go to his apartment still wide awake and write songs. Neil and I had a casual friendship and he was a true fan of music. Neil was always interested in my opinion about all things pop.

   “Jack liked to hang out at the [management offices] of Charlie Greene and Brian Stone on Sunset which were always open all night just to see if anybody was really going to show up. They managed Buffalo Springfield. There was a pool table. One night I introduced Neil to Jack. 

    “Neil was doing guitar stuff, and always trying to make his guitar a little bit different, and he said, ‘Do you know where that sound is coming from, Denny?’ I responded, ‘I know it’s not the Ventures.’ And he said, ‘Close, Hank Marvin, the guy in the Shadows. See, in Winnipeg we had BBC Radio and I heard them.’

    “We constantly had music chats. Records, performers like Ian & Sylvia, and he loved Dylan. Neil would constantly talk to Jack about his work with the Rolling Stones, Sonny Bono, and Jackie DeShannon. Jack and I became his mind-trust. Neil loved imagery as much as songwriting and performing.

   “Neil also indicated to us that he wanted to create a musical and lyrical mix of the Stones and Dylan,” stressed Bruce.

   “In 1966 Jack took me to one of the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath sessions at RCA studios in Hollywood he was working on where Andrew Loog Oldham was producing. 

    “During 1967, Neil and Buffalo Springfield started to move away from Gold Star recording studio where they did their first album, to do Buffalo Springfield Again at Sunset Sound with engineers Bruce Botnick and Jim Messina. They had eight-track machines.”   
    “The band was that first album and it was never captured again,” ventured Buffalo Springfield co-founder and guitarist/singer, Richie Furay in my 2000 interview.
    “That album at Gold Star represented the five of us together in the studio. After that it started to fall apart. It got worse with the next two albums. There were a lot of people being used other than the five of us.
     “We were always comfortable singing someone else’s song early on. The first album and some of the second, you can hear the cohesiveness was a group effort, there was not the possessiveness of ‘this is my song, or this is my baby, and I’m singing it because I wrote it.’  Early on there was this ‘what does this sound like with you singing?’ I know we tried ‘Mr. Soul’ with everybody singing and it sounded best with Neil,” underlined Furay. 
   “The individual members brought their own take on what was being presented to the song. We liked the Beatles with John and Paul singing harmony. Stephen [Stills] and I did a lot of that unison singing that we picked up from the Beatles but then there was a lot of experimentation.”
      “As the second Buffalo Springfield album began I went up to Neil’s cabin in Laurel Canyon,” continued Denny Bruce.

    “It was one of those things where you walk in and Neil had his jumbo acoustic 12-string guitar and he’s halfway through a song that turned out to be ‘Expecting to Fly.’ It’s pre-cassette days and it’s like he doesn’t want to forget where he’s at in this song. So I sit there for a good hour. He kept starting and stopping and trying other chord changes that most musicians wouldn’t go to. There was always a different tuning and Neil was also really good at using various time changes. Like in ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,’ which is 3/4 time.

   “Then Neil starts talking about ‘Expecting to Fly’ and said, ‘I hear it as a song for the Everly Brothers.’ I agreed and responded, ‘Yeah. I can hear their voices on it.’ And I said, ‘Guess who is in Las Vegas right now, honest to God, Jack Nitzsche, who had a recent visit to Mo Ostin at Reprise, and was looking for a gig.’ And Mo said, ‘You know, what could you do to maybe help the Everly Brothers with their song selection and production?’ And Jack said, ‘If they just had the right material, that’s the name of the game.’

     “I told Jack, in my opinion, ‘Expecting to Fly’ is perfect for them. And he goes, ‘That will be the first thing I listen to when I get back to L.A.’

    “Jack and I went over to Neil’s and heard the song and both of us agreed it was great. Then Jack said, ‘Fuck the Everlys. This is for Neil Young. We can make a great record.’

    “I did attend one of the marathon session dates for ‘Expecting to Fly’ that Jack arranged at Sunset Sound with engineer Bruce Botnick. Jim Gordon on drums and Don Randi on keyboards. All good players who Jack picked. He said to Neil, ‘this is gonna be a good solo deal. Not a Buffalo Springfield record.’ And Neil said, ‘Good. I don’t see them on this record.’ I said, ‘Not even Dewey?’ And Neil shrieked ‘No!’”
   “Jack Nitzsche called me to play keyboard on some dates in 1967 at Sunset Sound studio” recalled keyboardist/arranger Don Randi in a 2015 interview we conducted.

     “Neil was smart enough to know what he wanted and knew how to get it. You have to realize that as great a musician and as great a songwriter as he is Neil would also realize talent himself. Neil liked to experiment. He was smart enough to know what he wanted and knew how to get it.  Neil wrote cinematically and Jack arranged cinematically. I loved Neil’s music. Some of the tunes were movies. They were scripts,” acknowledged Randi. 

   “I’m on ‘Expecting To Fly’ with Russ Titelman, Carol Kaye, and Jim Gordon. I had some little head chart arrangement to work from and another of the tunes might have been sketched. It was pretty wide open with the chord changes. And all you had to do was hear Neil sing it down with an acoustic guitar and you sat there, ‘Oh my goodness…’

      “Jack and I never judged artists by their voices. To me it didn’t matter ‘cause I loved the music so much and Neil was able to sell it. There are some people you can’t stand them on record until you see them live. And once you see them live you can understand their records. That doesn’t happen a lot. But it does happen.

     “And I would love to have said how big Neil was gonna get. I don’t think he realized it. But I loved Neil’s music. Goodness gracious. This guy’s writing… I thought everybody and their mother was gonna try and start doing his songs. I knew he was a songwriter.

    “Look, I’ve been on dates with Elvis and Sinatra, guys who would arrive with an entourage. Neil would show up by himself. You have to realize that as great as a musician and as great as a songwriter he is, Neil would also realize talent himself. He realized a sound that he liked from a guitar. Neil knew that the only way to get it was to have that guitar. You’re not gonna get that off a Telecaster. You’re not gonna get it off something else. Neil was smart enough, and most of the good writers and players, if they didn’t have the acoustic guitar they went to that kind of guitar. Neil liked to experiment. And he would say, ‘Oh my goodness. Why don’t I do that?’ And he had the wherewithal and had the time to take his time. ‘Wow. That’s a real nice sound. I like this. I don’t like that.’”

   “During 1967, Neil, Jack and I watched the D. A. Pennebaker Bob Dylan documentary Dont Look Back at the Los Feliz Theater in Los Angeles when it premiered,” reiterated Denny Bruce. “Neil had his mind blown and asked me if we could see it again.

.    “In 1968, Neil, Jack, and I went to Long Beach for the final Buffalo Springfield concert in a limo. Jimmy Messina came home with us. It was a sense of relief for Neil and was glad it was over.

  “Neil now had confidence building from Jack and Gracia Nitzsche, and myself. Jack Nitzsche really believed in Neil’s music. Jack knew Neil would eventually become a solo star. He knew he wasn’t meant to be in a band.” 

   Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around, their third and last studio album was released in July 1968 after the group broke up. Jim Messina was the engineer and produced it with support by Richie Furay.
     As recently as 2021, Neil Young worked at Sunset Sound.
     In a 2009 interview I asked Bruce Botnick about the Sunset Sound recording studio.
   “It was built by a man named Alan Emig, who came from Columbia Records. He was a well-known mixer there, and designed a custom-built, fourteen-input console for Sunset Sound.
“Tooti Camarata, a trumpet player and an arranger [who] did big band stuff in the forties and fifties, had a friendship with Disney, and he decided to build a studio to handle the Disney records and all the movies, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
     “The room was very unique. Tooti Camarata did something that nobody had done in this country—he built an isolation booth for the vocals. Later on, I convinced him to take the mono disc mastering system and move it into the back, behind what became Studio 2. We turned that into a very large isolation booth, which we used to put stings in.
    “With the strings being in the large isolation booth, the drums didn’t suffer, so we were able to make tighter and punchier rhythm tracks than any of the other studios in town. ’Cause everybody did everything live in those days. You did your vocals live. You did your strings and your brass live, and the rhythm section. This was a big deal. Then add to it the amazing echo chamber that Alan Emig designed. It’s still phenomenal, having survived a fire. That chamber was like the chamber at Capitol Studios and Gold Star Studios.
   “The recording consoles. It was all tube. At one point, Alan had worked with Bill Putnam, who had helped design the two preamps in all the Universal Audio consoles. So when he came to Sunset Sound, he took it a step further and built this custom board with some of that circuitry and the two preamps. So it really sounded great.
United Recording Studios, Western Recorders, Gold Star, Sunset Sound, RCA . . . they were terrific rooms. There was a commonality between them. They all had the same loud speakers, which were Altec Lansing 604s. So you could walk from studio to studio and know what the hell you were hearing. Some rooms had more bottoms than others, but still, the general, overall sound was the same. So you could take your tape, and go to another room.”

     Nitzsche then brought Neil Young to the attention of Mo Ostin at Reprise Records in 1968.  Nitzsche’s keyboard work informed Young’s self-titled debut LP for the label issued in November ‘68. 

    “When I did film scores and started to bring in exotic instruments, I wanted to make the sound different and wanted room to experiment. Neil was the beginning of art-rock to me,” Jack confessed in a 2000 interview we did.

    In December 1970, Neil Young was in Los Angeles resting with a bad back at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard when the next major love of his life introduced herself. Actress Carrie Snodgress had ridden the pop-cultural zeitgeist to “It Girl” status with her performance in the Frank Perry movie Diary of a Mad Housewife.

     Neil had read a magazine feature about her and been immediately captivated. When he found out Carrie was in town, performing in a theatrical production in downtown Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum, Neil tracked down her number, called her up, and invited her to visit an ailing rock star in his time of need. Irresistible! 

   Carrie was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award and Neil’s music was reaching an audience. They quickly cleaved to each other as lifelines, sharing the high of stardom.

   Their relationship ebbed and flowed like cycles of a stalking desert moon, with more dramas, both real and imagined, than a Mexican telenovela. Sometimes, however, the chaos can induce a sliver of creative insight, turning heartbreak into publishing. Evidence: “A Man Needs a Maid.” The seeds for Neil’s greatest success were planted in this unforgiving soil.

   Young cited Harvest and much of the album’s material in a note dated May 1, 2019 posted on his official website, "Harvest was written about or for Carrie Snodgress, a wonderful actress and person and Zeke Young’s mother.” 

  On February 1, 1971, Neil Young delivered an inspiring solo recital at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Los Angeles Music Center with Carrie in the house. I worked a full-day shift at the West Los Angeles College library to earn the money for the ticket. I sat near actor Dean Stockwell and dancer/actress Toni Basil.
   “I went with Jack Nitzsche,” reminisced Bruce “Neil’s voice was really connecting with people then. He got in with ‘return to the womb rock,’ as Michael Bloomfield called it. James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Neil and just a handful of guys were allowed radio airplay and girls just loved it. And Neil was also able to rock so that the guys could dig him when Crazy Horse played loud.” 

   In February 1971, Young traveled to Nashville to tape The Johnny Cash Show, an ABC-TV national broadcast. He had a star turn on the Johnny Cash on Campus program  that aired on February 17, performing “The Needle and the Damage Done” and “Journey Through the Past.”  

   “One reason country music has expanded the way it has is that we haven’t let ourselves become locked into any category,” Johnny Cash explained to me during an August 1975 interview at the Royal Inn in Anaheim, Ca. for the now defunct Melody Maker. 

  When I asked Johnny about his bold policy of mixing established country artists and relative newcomers from other genres on his TV program lineup, Cash replied, “We do what we want.  One reason country music has expanded the way it has is that we haven't let ourselves become locked into any category. We do what we feel."

   Cash and I share the same February 26th date of birth. Johnny was delighted when I inquired about Bob Dylan.
  "I became aware of Bob Dylan when the Freewheelin' album came out in 1963.

    “I thought he was one of the best country singers I had ever heard. I always felt a lot in common with him. I knew a lot about him before we had ever met. I knew he had heard and listened to country music. I heard a lot of inflections from country artists I was familiar with. I was in Las Vegas in '63 and '64 and wrote him a letter telling him how much I liked his work. I got a letter back and we developed a correspondence.

   "We finally met at Newport in 1964. It was like we were two old friends. There was none of this standing back, trying to figure each other out. He's unique and original. I keep lookin' around as we pass the middle of the 70s and I don't see anybody come close to Bob Dylan. I respect him. Dylan is a few years younger than I am but we share a bond that hasn't diminished. I get inspiration from him."   

     Dylan was Johnny’s first booking on 1969’s The Johnny Cash Show. Guesting around Neil’s spot on his Cash episode were James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Huddled around a microphone, these three blossoming talents gave a taste of the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement in rock.

   While in Nashville, Neil took time to record some new material. Serendipity played its designated role as always; an encounter with veteran producer/engineer Elliot Mazer, an acquaintance of Young’s manager Elliot Roberts, introduced Neil to a new set of musicians who would influence his sound from this point on.

   “I was an A&R man for Prestige Records in 1962 and worked with Dave Pike, Clark Terry and Kenny Burrell. I loved his playing,” mused Mazer in a 2015 interview we did.

    “I went to Nashville in 1963. I worked with Jack Elliott, and at Cameo-Parkway, Chubby Checker, Maynard Ferguson, and Teddy Wilson. And then Richie Havens, Jack Holmes, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Gordon Lightfoot, Linda Ronstadt, Ian & Sylvia, Mike Bloomfield, and then the Area Code 615 band. Nashville session musicians. I engineered and co-produced. Wayne Moss, David Briggs, Mac Gayden, Charlie McCoy, and Kenny Buttrey.

    “In Nashville, David Briggs, Norbert Putnam and I then built Quadraphonic. It was a Victorian House. The control room was on the porch. We had a wood-paneled living room and the old dining room we used was more padded. We built a drum area sort of in the middle. We had a Quad-Eight recording console and Ampex MM1000 16-track. And Altec studio monitors.”

   With Mazer handling the console at Quadrafonic Sound Studios, Neil laid down most of the tracks for what would become Harvest, his biggest seller and, for many, his most enduring work. 

   “I had a friend who smoked a lot of weed, which I wasn’t then, who played nothing but After the Gold Rush—a lot,” offered Mazer. “That was the first time I heard of Neil Young. I was interested in the voice. All of a sudden we read about Neil coming to Nashville to tape The Johnny Cash Show. I said, ‘We need to host a dinner.’

    “Neil, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, and Tony Joe White attend, have dinner, and I get introduced to Neil. ‘You work with these Nashville guys. Can I get the studio tomorrow to mess around?’ ‘Sure.’ I moved a session to accommodate him and called some musicians.” 

   The future Stray Gators, a bunch of good ol’ boys covered all the musical bases: rascally Tim Drummond on bass; the timekeeper from Dylan’s immortal Blonde on Blonde, Kenny Buttrey, on silky smooth drums; pianist John Harris; guitar player Teddy Irwin; and Ben Keith, Neil’s future right-hand man, on yowling steel guitar. They would set the table for their irascible leader at countless gigs and studio sessions.

     “I knew ‘Heart of Gold’ was a hit when Neil played it,” confirmed Mazer. “

   “His songs generally create an overpowering feeling. Kenny, Drummond, Ben, Teddy, and I are in the control room. Small space. Twelve feet by twenty feet. And Neil plays ‘Heart of Gold’ and I look up and Kenny and I both at the same time put our fingers up as ‘number one.’ We knew it. From then it was only a matter of time to get the thing done properly and out. I used a Neumann U67 or 87 microphone on his voice and rode his sound levels.

    “Neil played ‘Old Man’ and sang it beautifully,” emphasized Mazer. “I knew that was the take. I would know very early with him if it would be a take or not. I remember after that take, Neil came into the control room and saw Linda and James there and said, ‘Let’s record the backing vocals.’ And we did the backing vocals right in the control room. James played six-string banjo on it.

    “Neil’s singing and playing on ‘Heart of Gold’ were magnificent. His tempo was perfect. It was great. All we had to do was make sure we didn’t mess him up.”

   “I sang in Nashville with Neil,” recollected Linda Ronstadt in my 2015 book Neil Young Heart of Gold.  “We were doing The Johnny Cash Show and Neil was there. James Taylor was there.

   “After we got finished with the TV show, Neil said, ‘I’m going to go record. Will you guys come along?’ So we recorded ‘Old Man’ and ‘Heart of Gold.’ It took all night long. We didn’t get there until midnight. It was just before dawn, we came out of there and it had begun to snow.

   “I remember I had to be on my knees for most of the session because James and I were singing together. But James was so tall, he had to sit in a chair, then I’d have to bend over to sing, so I knelt on my knees. I could just reach the microphone. James was bent over and I was kneeling. So I was really tired by the time we finished because it took hours. But we loved the music. It was so good. James was playing a banjo. Actually, it was a guitar with a banjo head on it with six strings. That’s James playing banjo that you hear on ‘Heart of Gold.’ Two of the most beautiful, poignant songs. Neil is just the best. He’s my favorite writer from that time. I was a huge Neil Young fan. We didn’t think in those terms about those songs having an impact. I just went, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever heard. I wanna be on it.’ I was glad that I got to sing on it. I had sort of learned how Neil’s harmonies go by listening to them on the radio. I was just glad to be part of it.” 

     “Neil and Jack Nitzsche went to London and produced ‘A Man Needs a Maid’ and ‘There’s a World’ live with the London Symphony,” explained Mazer. “Neil recorded ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ [produced by Henry Lewy] from a [January 30, 1971] concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

   “Neil’s back was hurting him tremendously during Harvest,” revealed Mazer. “He had back pain, and the fact that he sat down a lot was really inhibiting him. He then had an operation, which made that a lot better.

   “We did other tracks that were taped with the Stray Gators in California inside a barn on Neil’s ranch. We used a mobile truck with a UREI tube mixer. ‘Words,’ ‘Alabama,’ and ‘Are You Ready for the Country.’ Jack Nitzsche was on these sessions.” 

   Also heard on Harvest are David Crosby, backing vocals on "Are You Ready for the Country?" and "Alabama." Stephen Stills provided backing vocals on “Alabama” and “Words,” while Graham Nash chimed in on “Are You Ready for the Country?” and “Words.”

   Finally released in March 1972, Harvest raced to number one on the Billboard album chart, a defining moment. 

   “In 1972 ‘Heart of Gold’ became a big hit record,” reflected Mazer. “I pulled up to Neil’s ranch one day. I had a rental car coming from the airport, and as I was about to turn the car off, I hear the deejay on KFRC, ‘Next we’re gonna hear ‘Heart of Gold.’ I run into the house, Neil, come here.’ I have him sit in the car and he turns it off. I’m not sure what it was about him. I think he loved getting the big checks but publically didn’t want to acknowledge that he was a pop success,” Elliot proposed.

    “Neil in the studio is magnificent when he wants to. When Neil is at a point where he really delivers a song wonderfully, it’s incredible. Live is different. He sings louder live than he does in the studio. Neil Young can play guitar and sing. You can put a microphone at the voice and a microphone at the guitar and you won’t hear anything but voice and guitar. He is a master of playing guitar at appropriate levels. I think it come from him playing a lot of clubs and wanting the guitar to be heard. That would be my guess.

    “Janis [Joplin] and Neil are extraordinary people. I mean, they are unique and sound like nobody else. They were doing something that was really original and people either liked it or didn’t pay attention. I think Neil and Janis were really smart people, above average smart people. You don’t become the success in this business without being really bright, by the way. You can’t do it all. And Janis and Neil would do it all. Janis was really interested in every aspect of making records. People keep referencing her sexuality. But in fact, she was an incredibly smart person that would really care about something and would work incredibly hard.

   “Neil works hard and is a very interesting person. I think that’s it. And his music moves people. Because they see an artist that they like and they’ve liked, and see something positive that they recognize, and they know it gives them a very good emotional response listening to that. People want to feel good. And I think that does it,” concluded Mazer.         

    “More than anyone in rock and roll, Neil Young has the guts to be romantic … If ‘Heart of Gold’ is an admission, ‘A Man Needs a Maid’ is an outcry … Harvest also sounds better than any other Neil Young album,” volunteered then U.C. Santa Cruz student James Cushing, in 1972 for the school’s City on a Hill Press. 

   Poet/professor/deejay James Cushing reviewed the newly-released Harvest for the UC Santa Cruz student paper, City on a Hill, when he was a student there in 1972.

    “More than anyone in rock and roll,” Cushing wrote then, “Neil Young has the guts to be romantic … If ‘Heart of Gold’ is an admission, ‘A Man Needs a Maid’ is an outcry … Harvest also sounds better than any other Neil Young album.” 

    “Listening to Harvest in 2015 after I reviewed it for my college newspaper,” added Cushing, forty-three years later, “I’m pleased with the country-western flavor Ben Keith’s pedal steel contributed to ‘Out on the Weekend,’ the looseness of ‘Are You Ready for the Country’ and the slow, sludgy rock of ‘Alabama’ and ‘Words (Between the Lines of Age).’

     “Then as now, the sodden strings on ‘A Man Needs a Maid’ and ‘There’s a World’ struck me as a ploy to seduce a long-and-winding MOR audience. The lyrics had that characteristic Neil Young blend of artlessness and wisdom. A confession that erased ego rather than asserting it. Partly because of the title, the album seemed important — a major statement by a major artist, and as such deserving of thoughtful study.”

     During January 2022 I asked Cushing for any further observations as a 50th anniversary edition of Harvest is being readied for retail outlets. 

   “Listening to Harvest in 2022, I’m struck by the naked openness of Young’s singing voice, an instrument of unapologetic vulnerability. This man is alienated from his social world and wants us to know it.

   “As on After the Gold Rush, we feel his willingness to expose himself as a lonely outsider, aging quickly (‘old man look at my life / I’m a lot like you were’), almost reduced to silence by the emptiness surrounding him. Our boy ‘can’t relate to joy / he tries to speak and can’t begin to say,’ and in that moment he is Every Lonely Man. But Heart of Gold shows room for hope. The album’s melancholy mood never darkens into prairie nihilism. Call them songs of recuperation,” suggested Cushing.

   “The two songs with Jack Nitzsche’s strings pose just as much of a problem for me as they ever did. The same goes for ‘The Long and Winding Road’ on Let It Be or ‘Jealous Guy’ on Imagine. But those albums were huge hits. Was Young competing with the Spectorized Beatles? And then there’s the solo acoustic cut. Well, I’m glad he didn’t do the whole LP with the London Symphony Orchestra, but he could have done it solo acoustic. Is that the function of these over-arranged and demo-simple cuts on the same side: to suggest what could have been? 

    “I just hope we get to hear non-LSO versions of ‘A Man Needs a Maid’ and ‘There’s a World’ on a 50th anniversary reissue collection being planned.”   

    Cuushing believes that Bob Dylan’s absence from the 1972 music scene left an opening for Young. 

      “The harmonica on ‘Heart of Gold’ has always reminded me of Dylan’s absence, and tries, with some success, to make up for it. And don’t forget that the album’s held down by Kenny Buttrey’s drums, familiar from Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, and Nashville Skyline. Tim Drummond would be Dylan’s bassist and co-writer during the gospel years.

      “Also, the ‘guests’ who sing backing vocals are all well-known: James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, David Crosby, Steven Stills, and Graham Nash. Are the last three Young’s ‘fellow band members’? Could Deja Vu have resembled Harvest? Or are these stars really ‘guests,’ in the sense that George Harrison was a ‘guest’ on Imagine? The lonely man, like the dreamer (Lennon), must remain independent despite the need for companionship — oh, Yoko, a man needs a maid!

     “Harvest gains when we hear it in the context of other key 1971-72 rock releases,” summarized Cushing. “It was one of the biggest-selling LPs of the period and it made Neil Young a major star — someone at or near Beatles / Stones / Dylan status. The Beatles were over by 1972, but Imagine is also full of slow, recuperative songs, and the Stones’ Exile on Main Street is an alienated epic. And a few months after Harvest, David Bowie would take alienation to new heights with Ziggy Stardust.”

 (Harvey Kubernik is the author of 20 books, including Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows published in 2014 and Neil Young Heart of Gold during 2015.  

Kubernik also authored 2009’s Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and 2014’s Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972. 

    Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. For November 2021 the duo wrote Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child for Sterling/Barnes and Noble.

    Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s book, Docs That Rock, Music That Matters, featuring interviews with D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Albert Maysles, Murray Lerner, Morgan Neville, Dr. James Cushing, Curtis Hanson, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Andrew Loog Oldham, Dick Clark, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Travis Pike, Allan Arkush, and David Leaf, among others.   
     Kubernik’s writings are in several book anthologies, including The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski.
    Harvey wrote the liner note booklets to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special and The Ramones’ End of the Century). 
   During 2020 Harvey Kubernik served as a Consultant on the 2-part documentary Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time directed by Alison Ellwood. 

Also, see  other reviews by Harvey Kubernik :

Deja Vu Photo Composites
via Susan Miller 
by Buffalo Springfield 
Courtesy of Rhino/WMG 

Elliot Mazer: 1941 - 2021
Neil Young
By Harvey Kubernik - Copyright 2021

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At 2/05/2022 04:46:00 AM, Blogger Aer Stephen said...

Well, I celebrated my 50th birthday..... on my 50th birthday. I guess I am just weird that way.

At 2/05/2022 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Ken N. said...

Never liked Harvest much.

More of an On The Beach, Tonight's The Night, Zuma guy.

At 2/05/2022 12:40:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@ Thrashers: I believe this may be the longest post ever here on the Wheat. It took awhile to get through it, but now that I have, I’ll share my thoughts on Harvest @ 50.

The day Harvest was released, my first girlfriend and I took a bus to downtown Portland and (if memory serves) went to a big department store and road an elevator up to the music department. We were each fifteen years old at the time, and flushed with that intense feeling when you first think you’re in love. Needless to say that when we got back to my house and heard Harvest for the first time, it was a rather romantic experience for us. I think this is why I hold the record so dear, as it marks a special moment in my life when the teenage hormones were raging.

When I listen to Harvest now of course it carries much more than just adolescent memories because I’ve lived with it for 50 years. In that context I relate to differently. For me, Harvest is simply one chapter in an ongoing novel that isn’t finished yet. I don’t like to categorize it as a classic album, it’s just one part of something much bigger.

There are hundreds of albums that I have lived with for most of my life, and as I grow and change, so do those records. Music is a living art, it’s not singular or stationary. It can be different things to different people at different times. There are bands that I have gravitated to throughout my life that served me well at that time, but now I’ve evolved as a person so I don’t resonate with them anymore. That doesn’t take away from their music, its just doesn’t feed me like it did before.

There are certain artists that I’ve connected with over the years that have always hit me in a deeper way, and I’ve always connected with what they were saying and what they were playing. Neil Young is obviously one of those artists that I’ve managed to grow old with. He just seems to be creating music that connects to my DNA.

If you live long enough, and your always consciously working towards becoming a better version of yourself, then you evolve and grow. I know I’m still not the person I want to be, but I’m getting closer every day because I’m constantly searching and holding myself accountable for my life. Having Neil’s music along for the ride has been a real blessing and I’m grateful he’s still alive and working. Harvest is an important part of my journey, but it only represents a single chapter. Hopefully there are many more to come, because I’m still here listening and dreaming.

Peace 🙏

At 2/05/2022 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

If memory serves my recorded story goes back and forth starting with Live Rust in 1982 or so --> Woodstock Soundtrack --> Four Way Street --> Reactor --> Trans --> Decade --> Harvest, until I finally had enough money to buy all the rest of it, vinyl and CD - and then some.
In the early 80's Punk, New Wave and the so-called Neue Deutsche Welle (Wavy German stuff with Kraftwerk being the godfathers and Nina Hagen the godmother) were the sound of Berlin, but back in the southern German country people could relate to the acoustic flavour of a record like Harvest. When I moved closer to Munich with regards to style I was hopelessly behind the times compared to my new peers, who thought Neil Young to be an old hippie and me to be a young back-country hick. It was like Dylan much later said it: Someone was always yelling "Turn it down!" I suffered a lot for my musical taste - and looking at some of the earlier chapters of my record collection rightly so - but nowadays the classic Neil Young records up to RNS are canonized, occasionally one can even hear them on FM radio later in the night, when the kiddies are to bed or hang out in locations that you don't want know of. Sure Harvest became a mainstay with not a single miss on it. All I had was Harvest and Broken Arrow when driving down from Behchoko (then called Fort Rae) to Vancouver and I learnt these records by heart.

At 2/05/2022 04:05:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I guess it is right to say Heart of God is "romantic"? There is much on the album that strikes me as a problem for romanticism. To me "Harvest" remains a mysterious and vast song, one that makes my heart and mind focus.

At 2/05/2022 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

The air of the lyrics and some of the motives of the song "Harvest" could be right out of "Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing" a novella by Joseph von Eichendorff (1788 - 1857), a key text by an essential poet and author of the last phase of German Romanticism. One of the running gags of this novella is that the main character always is falling asleep to be woken up by various female characters and their respective changes of plan for the young man. I could not find a translation into English (project gutenberg org doesn't have any of it, just a few poems). So, yes, absolutely, "Harvest" is romantic.

At 2/05/2022 05:28:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Thanks, I don't always know how to identify "romantic." A genre that I generally find pretty uninteresting when I can identify it! (Which makes me pathetically unreliable)

At 2/06/2022 01:23:00 AM, Blogger wsanjose01 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/06/2022 02:08:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

A really informative article by Alex Ross from the New Yorker has been posted on NYA dealing with music streaming. The article reinforces my belief that buying music is still of value. Not only for me but especially for the artist. These gifted individuals who are creating this art form have to eat, and have a place to live, and they certainly can’t accomplish that through streaming, unless they are pop icons. Just read the article and ask yourself the question , “why shouldn’t all music just be free?”….. answer…. “because all you’d have access to is Taylor Swift”.

Peace 🙏

At 2/06/2022 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Shakeydave said...

thats quite a historic post Thrasher but well deserved - cheers!

At 2/06/2022 07:25:00 PM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

Saw this at
"I applaud Neil Young for standing up for what he believes in so strongly," said Halford to Billboard.....
Everybody has an opinion — did [Young] do the right thing? Did he do the wrong thing? You know what? Your opinion doesn't matter. He did the right thing for him."

At 2/06/2022 09:43:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Good post. Thank you.

Recordings surface of Joe Rogan used the N-word 20x on his show. Now the boycott really begins. #BoycottSpotify

At 2/06/2022 11:20:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

At 2/07/2022 10:41:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Aer - well, yes, not too weird.

Hard top say, but it seems that maybe this Spotify deal has thrown a monkey wrench into plans. Supposedly, there's a Harvest 50th box release planned but no details yet.

Altho, that has been the historic pattern to not hit these anniversaries precisely.

@ Dan - great memories! Thanks for sharing.

right, this was a super long post. fyi, we just put a jump break on post to minimize scrolling.

depending, as noted above, we'd really like to come back to this anniversary. presumably we will later this year...

maybe vinyl pressing delays likely?

@ Dionys - as we noted w/ Dan, great memories and thanks for sharing.

also, we came across this we wanted to share with you.

Besides the obvious name check ref, this music and philosophy subject is something that we think you might enjoy.

Dionysus in Music: On the ‘God of Sex and Drums and Rock and Roll’ - The Philosophical Salon

@ Abner - romanticism in rock & roll!?

good question. maybe the article above that we referred to Dionys has the answers???

@ Dan - just saw the New Yorker posted on NYA.

@ Peacelover Doc - "He did the right thing for him." Spot on

@ Alan - this subject seems to be snowballing into 3rd week now.

At 2/07/2022 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I have not read the piece in Philosophical Salon (yet). My grasp on the conditions for some work of art (especially literature) to be genre x is slim. But (following Herder, Dionys will know what I mean here- I hope), the division between genres is porous. What seems really interesting to me in describing Harvest as an example of romanticism is the manner in which Neil Young seems (at least implicitly) aware of a nihilism present in the romantic. Consequently, we get Down By The River. This song is perhaps more interesting than anything on Harvest. Whether or not romanticism or the romantic can encircle the elements of human reality seems unlikely to me. At the very least it needs to become hybrid. I could be totally wrong and confused as I spend all my time on tragedy and the genre of tragic realism in United States fiction.

At 2/07/2022 12:23:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Are we boycotting Neil now?

I mean it looks like he made an 'offensive' remark 37 years ago...better call the word police

We can't have anyone being offended

At 2/07/2022 01:39:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Sorry, I garbled my comment. Romanticism seems to me (often in examples) very limited in its range over human reality. I posed this idea as a question in the above comment and thereby ruined its content. This long, rambling piece on Harvest is fascinating in all its detail. A great post.

At 2/07/2022 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

Romanticism transcends all form. It is a progressive universal poiesis. Or in Neil Young’s words: “It’s all one song!” So Neil Young to me definitely is a neo-romanticist. Romanticism here is understood in the German sense of the word. So while Herder did the groundwork being a forerunner of the classic German literature German literature sciences divide the epoch into the classic age (Herder, Goethe, Schiller) and the next generation (Romanticism proper) and a later phase that also had a dark side, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” being the prime example in English literature.

"In Jena Friedrich Schlegel and his brother August Wilhelm founded the journal Athenaeum, contributing fragments, aphorisms, and essays in which the principles of the Romantic school are most definitely stated. They are now generally recognized as the deepest and most significant expressions of the subjective idealism of the early Romanticists."
(Taken from the English Wikipedia and slightly altered)

Nietzsche and his opposition of the dionysian and apollonian principle is another context altogether. Neil Young has both: "Expecting to Fly" (Apollonian) and "Flying on the Ground is Wrong" (Dionysian).

We do a lot of this stuff in the 12th grade. In a year from now I will be at it again.

In the meantime Neil Young wrote a song called Philadelphia, got an Academy award nomination for it, the award going to Springsteen, who said the the award should have been given to Neil Young. Later on Neil Young closely worked with Jonathan Demme. So Neil Young changed his mind and never was afraid to concede he made mistakes in the past. That is the difference between the comedian and Neil Young. And Neil Young definitely did not build a career on his mistakes but on his virtues. I am not so sure aboutt the other guy and his merits.

At 2/07/2022 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I need to learn this tradition. I have had to learn the history of aesthetics more or less on my own, trained as I was in anglo/american analytic tradition. Your comments are both helpful and interesting Dionys. I would like to wander down to the pub and talk about Goethe and Schiller (where I am essentially a blank slate).

It is probably important to respond in some way to x. But I think it is pretty clear at this point that the idea of a changed mind from a sound argument is rather unlikely. For myself, I am done with the epistemic vacuum.

Thrasher's post is great- I keep going back to it, very intriguing to read about all these people/musicians/arrangers working with Neil.

At 2/07/2022 04:02:00 PM, Blogger Hambone said...

I too would need to lesson from Dionys as I'm limited to the British romantics such as Byron, Keats, et al. Though apparently Wordsworth describing poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” which could well describe a certain Mr Young's recent lyric writing style.

Abner, I have the original Melody Maker article in full in my "Neil scrapbook" and thing that shocked the British journalist the most was his endorsement of Reagan rather than the gay comments - and note Neil's comment "it's paranoid but that's the way it is - even though it's not just gay people, they're taking the rap". So there was uncertainty even then.
I suggest reading "And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic" by Randy Shilts to get a feel for how disinformation and fear of being seen to somehow support gay people - alongside a sub-culture in denial - screwed up a sensible response the AIDS early on. It's a brilliant read.

The article was published at the height of the anti-nuclear cruise missile campaign when many of us were tired of being a land aircraft carrier for the US strike force. The missiles were based at Greenham Common, which is two miles from where I now live. The airbase was closed down in 1997 and is now public common land with grazing cattle, cycle paths and a cold war visitor centre & cafe, What a pity it all seems to be coming back in to fashion.

And finally for a real abstract Harvest reference may I submit the rapper Anderson.Paak's version of "Heart of Gold" from his early EP (2013) Cover Art - a deliberate collection of cover versions of songs by white artists.

You can hear it here:
and read the full lyrics here:

It needs a few listens, as he offsets the beat from the lyric so it sounds disconcerting at first - and there's a free flow rap around the main tune. It's by far the most experimental cover on the EP - but there's a fine version the Beatle's Bluebird and a very mellow take on Toto's "Hold the Line".

This demonstrates the iconic status of some of the songs on this album and though it's not among my all time favourite albums it has a place there in the canon - not just as the prod into the ditch but also the epitome of the singer-songwriter genre.
And I was converted to loving Words, which I had thought a trfile overblown, by a sublime version at The Hop Farm Festival in 2008, where in the summer twilight Neil and Ben Keith mesmerised the crowd with their guiter interplay.

Enough rambling from me tonight,

Tony "Hambone" in the UK

At 2/07/2022 06:27:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

Abner, you would have had fun with my students. A couple of years ago I had them dressed up as 18th century persons, making videos in the streets of Weimar. They did (mock) interviews with Goethe, danced contemporary menuets at the palace of Weimar, went about in horse drawn carriages, you get the idea. Those Japanese tourists went crazy and paid money for taking pictures...

Another of these little projects were rub-offs or frottages of the grave stones of all the poets and their entourage in Weimar. Among many others I got Herder's gravestone. That's a kind of morbid collection in away, I know, but I get a kick out of it and one day will make a huge exhibition, where Ludwig Tieck (the king of romanticism, buried in Berlin) will meet his admirer J.F. Cooper (buried in Cooperstown, NY) again, whose grave I visited in 2017. All the jazz musicians of Woodlawn cemetary in the Bronx will be assembled around Jack Kerouac (Lowell, MA).

Literature is a lot more fun, when you're actually there. With this collection I could turn a gym into a pantheon of music and literature.

Romanticism is transcending barriers, borders, time and oceans and I am a very hopeless romantic. Going through the lyrics of "Harvest" songs again, I find "Out on the Weekend", another of this neo-romantic songs.

At 2/07/2022 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I would like to celebrate colleagues on this thread, Hambone and Dionys. Such great comments and ways for me to learn, thank you friends. We have to keep learning. (I am not ignoring all the rest of you, just thinking directly about most recent comments.) Thank you.

At 2/08/2022 06:56:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Dionys, A small question, respectful critical question. I am not speaking from any tradition or about any tradition (except analytic philosophy), it seems that the notion of romanticism is just about "too open." Is there any way to tighten things down a bit?

I am asking because I think I see anti-romanticism creeping around the edges of Harvest. Of course, I need to give some good content to my claim. I am working on it. This continues to be a great fun.

At 2/08/2022 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Dionys said...

For now just a short answer. "being too open" is one of the main critical points that triggered the realistic turn in the 30's in the German literature of the 19th century. The romantic "anything goes" attitude among other things resulted in a reaction which ultimately led to the death of the autonomous subject (the traditional hero of the classic and romantic epoch), the re-assertion of authoritarian (olympic) narrator roles and the re-establishment of chronological order (as opposed to simultaneity which was favourite of the German romanticists).

So most of the "Harvest" songs still have the subject ("I") they spell out imagery witnessed by the subject, but the subject appears to be at some points insecure, vulnerable also undecided what to make out of these impressions.

Sure there's realism around the corner ("Alabama").

At one point we probably we will somehow have to exchange E-mail addresses if your are interested.

At 2/08/2022 08:52:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Most definitely

At 2/08/2022 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

I will ask Thrasher to be our address exchange agent. I do not want to see my E-Mail address on the blog.

At 2/08/2022 01:02:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Gute Idee, Damon ist hier unterwegs🙄

At 2/08/2022 01:25:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ All - we continue to be semi-staggered by the breadth and depth of knowledge shared here. truly an honor to host you folks.

@ Abner - we have Dionys email. you can post here or send yours to
thrasher ATSIGN
and we'll pass along

At 2/08/2022 01:27:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

Is this a dagger that I see before me?
(Sorry, insiders only)

At 2/08/2022 03:46:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Good old Damon hast a dagger
but the dagger can't be Seen.
Bad Bert Augsburger

At 2/11/2022 09:37:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Dan - Posted a CotM @ Comment of the Moment: Romanticism & Neil Young’s Harvest at Age 50

thanks much!

@ Thrashers Wheat Sanity Collective - working on a post for St Valentine's day next week on Romanticism in Neil's music.

Feel free to drop comment submissions for consideration by Sunday.
(h/t ian)


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